Smartphones and tablets, like video games before them, are not inherently evil. Far from a productivity killer, there are a tonne of apps striking the much sought-after balance between entertainment and education over the summer.

Education meets fun

Though summer holidays are a time for the kids to relax, finding the right balance of screen and play time can be a tricky line to follow.  With this in mind, a new genre of ‘edutainment’ programs can help ensure young minds are kept engaged without a sugar rush of entertainment.

For those in the early years of primary school, it’s best to keep things simple. As a suite of sister-apps to brain training sensation Lumosity, Lumikids’ uses sight, sounds, and fine-motor coordination to enhance everything from logic to social skills. Endless Alphabet focuses specifically on vocabulary through some creatively designed characters and fun challenges. And for parents who want to be a part of the learning, Mickey’s Magical Maths World has added a parental dashboard to their mathematical education app, so you can work with your kids to solve simple maths equations (with a few recognisable friends).

Science fans between 8-12 will be sure to enjoy Toca Lab, the beautifully animated app allowing kids to experiment with all 118 elements of the periodic table. Forget time limits or score counts in this app, just play with all manner of lab tools to heat, freeze, blend and spin your day away. For those thinking astrally, Star Walk Kids brings the expansive solar-gazing of Star Walk to a more accessible level in order to teach the basics of constellations and planets.

Bookworms big and small will enjoy Epic’s subscription-based e-book service. Working like a Netflix-for-books stream, the recommendations function offers further reading based on what you have enjoyed, Audible offers a similar service but for Audiobooks, with thousands of titles available with anything from educational books to fiction adventures.

Moving further forward, Codequest opens up the world of HTML and CSS programming languages with interactive demonstrations and visuals. They’ll complete mini-games and challenges while building up their own personal website. Especially proud of their work? You can save their site to a secure server, viewable only by family and friends.

Things to see and do

Rainy day apps are nice, but getting the kids up and active is what summer is all about! Busy Little Kids is a great starting point, with over 110 accessible suggestions – from Fort Building to a classic Teddy Bear Picnic.

For those venturing outside, Project NOAH encourages the photography and teaching of flora and fauna through a crowd-sourced database. Head outside and learn some more about the environment. And if you’re not sure, snap a photo and they will even identify any plants or animals within 24 hours.

If you’re looking for a more topical events calendar, local aggregator TimeOut covers the best of Sydney from educational events to fun fairs and children’s concerts. Whatever you end up doing, Curious Playground helps you create personalised, interactive experiences for your child with photography, music and art games to share between the family.

Pure entertainment

This summer is set to tip the dial over 40º a few times, so indoor entertainment mightn’t be a bad thing.

Nosy Crow has redefined the idea of storytelling with their interactive fairy tales: GoldilocksJack & the BeanstalkSnow White and more have all been re-told as playable tales, packed with mini-games and non-linear storylines that will change your approach to some much-loved books. In a similar vein, Dino Dog is an interactive story and prehistoric lesson wrapped in colourful levels, while Fox & Sheep’s moving picture book Petting Zoo will appeal to the little ones (and their parents) thanks to innovative illustrations and interactive experiences.

Though better known for their revolutionary approach to design and technology, IDEO’s Balloonimals iPad game uses sensory controls to create your own balloon animals. Keeping their creative streak front and centre,Drawnimal combines tablets and paper as an electronic drawing lesson to beef up artistic talent.

For the inner author, Book Creator for iPad provides a host of design tools to make your very own iBook from your tablet. Type text, insert photos and select your colour scheme, and when your child is done they can share it around or even upload it to the iBooks store. And for older children with a creative passion Minecraft’s Pocket Edition brings the gaming phenomenon to your smartphone, with its sandbox style level-builder responsible for hours of building time.

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Tanya Phull

Head of Social Media

Tanya Phull,
Head of Social Media

As head of social media at Vodafone, Tanya is an expert in customer engagement and emerging platforms. As an American-born expat and wanderluster, Tanya is always equipped with the best tech tips for travellers.